One year ago today, I walked away from Toronto General Hospital’s Eating Disorder Unit grateful to have my life and determined to continue my journey in recovery. On December 13, 2019 I made a promise to myself to make recovery my main priority and I’m proud to be here on December 13, 2020, to make that same promise to myself again.
I’ve never spoken much about my time in treatment; however, maybe this is an opportune time. The time away from treatment actually allowed me to appreciate Toronto General Hospital’s staff and their program far more than I could have imagined. I’ve been able to build the skill’s the staff taught me to build habits and to reflect on why I needed to build new skills. Long story short: TGH set me up for success in every way possible and it is largely because of their staff that I’m still here today.
My first day in treatment at Toronto General Hospital was nothing like what I expected: the days were shorter than at Credit Valley (8 hours a day vs 4-6); there were more patients but we were split up into ‘small groups’; there was more freedom around food choices and more opportunities to get involved with your food; and there were more opportunities for therapy. The only thing that I was actually right about going into this first day was that I was terrified. It was relieving to know that I wouldn’t be sharing the 1.5 hour group therapy with 12 other individuals trying to recover because we were able to allow ourselves the time to speak about what was on our mind. In groups of 5-8 (depending on how many patients were in the program), we would take the time to analyze our emotions and symptoms to build skills that would support our recovery. Not having to brief all of my emotional turmoil in a 30 second speech to 12 strangers, all of whom are waiting for their turn to share their emotional turmoil, removed a lot of the anxiety that comes with group therapy (for me). As well, TGH offered opportunities for you and your fellow co-patients and a member of TGH staff to go to a local restaurant, in order to help normalize eating in a restaurant and help to remove some of the fear attached to the experience. While I didn’t partake in this, I think it’s an amazing tool for so many in recovery that struggle to dine in restaurants or around other people. I had a few friends that benefited from this experience and actually found it enjoyable. I, however, worked with the dietitian to focus my time in treatment on cooking meals for myself and after 2 weeks in treatment, I made it my responsibility to prepare my own meals, forgoing the hospital meals offered to me as a patient. It allowed me to put the time and energy aside each day to prepare food for myself, something I’ve never been able to do. The final piece of the puzzle forming my recovery? Therapy. Lots and lots of therapy. Unfortunately, therapy is expensive. Thankfully, TGH is a research hospital and as a result, there are times when there are more opportunities for therapeutic resources alongside your treatment. I was lucky enough to be able to partake in Cognitive Processing Therapy to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The combination of CPT with my eating disorder treatment allowed me to move past my trauma in order to move forward with my recovery. I still struggle with PTSD and I’ve learned how to cope so that my triggers don’t push me closer to my eating disorder.
I’m so thankful for Toronto General Hospital. When I had my first appointment with the head of the program, I was terrified what would happen if they turned me away like Credit Valley had done. And if they turned me away? Well, I didn’t have any other option but TGH. It was TGH or nothing. Unlike CVH however, TGH and their team decided that my life was worth it. It didn’t matter that I had a prescription for cannabis – they saw the value in me and they saw my will to recover – and they gave me the next available spot in their program. I walked away from that first appointment with an admission date and all of my pre-treatment appointments dates in hand.
So here I am on the anniversary of my discharge, wondering what got me here and all I can think about is TGH. I’ve put in the work to get myself to this spot and TGH gave me a chance to see that I was worth that work. I wouldn’t be here without the amazing friends I met and the spectacular staff that I had the honour to work with. I wouldn’t be here if that one doctor hadn’t believed that I was worth saving. I wouldn’t be here to commit to another year of recovery.
What got me here? What got me through one of the hardest years of my life without my most common coping mechanism?
Toronto General Hospital and everyone I met there.
They got me here.
And damn, I am so happy to be here.